Inland waterway transport and Seine-Scheldt in the spotlight in Wallonia!

On 7 June 2023, the Service public de Wallonie (SPW), a member of the Seine-Scheldt EEIG, organised its traditional inland waterway transport and intermodality Day in Mons (Walloon Region, Belgium). More than 200 people from Belgium and France attended this major European inland waterway event.

The morning academic session, led by Pascal Moens, Director of Freight Transport and Intermodality, provided an opportunity to take stock of the major advances being made in river projects in Wallonia, and in particular the operations being carried out as part of the Seine-Scheldt network.

Sébastien Lannoy (Acting Inspector General, SPW) and Manuel Philippe (Voies navigables de France) began with an update on the reopening of the Pommeroeul-Condé canal. Closed in 1992 due to silting, this cross-border canal has undergone major dredging (1 million cubic metres of sediment). The project, undertaken by SPW and VNF and financed by the European Union, the Walloon Region and the Hauts de France Region, was a technical challenge, but also an environmental one, involving ecological compensation measures and the creation of dedicated areas for species such as beavers. When it reopens in autumn 2023, users will be able to save up to a day’s navigation and double their tonnage capacity. Related developments on the banks, service roads and sediment management sites will then be carried out between 2024 and 2028.

Dominique Simon, Inspector General at SPW, then presented the results of the past year and the outlook for the Walloon inland waterway network (450 km). The past year has been exceptional, with 5 major Seine-Scheldt projects completed (Comines crossing on the Lys, modernisation of the Tournai crossing, new quay at Manage) or on the way to completion (reopening of the Pommeroeul-Condé canal, deepening of the Auvelais lock). Other works will be launched at the end of the year (curves rectification of the Nimy-Blaton-Péronne canal) and in 2024 (new locks at Obourg, Marchinnes, Viesville and Gosselies).

Mr Simon also mentioned the development of new services on the Seine-Scheldt network in Wallonia, in particular the introduction of remote control on the Sambre (extension of navigation times from 6am to 10pm between Namur and Mornimont from 1 September 2023) and the resilience study on water resources.

Against a backdrop of global threats (war in Ukraine, inflation, climate emergency) and opportunities (European Green Deal, Seine-Scheldt, Walloon recovery plan, etc), Philippe Henry, Vice-President and Minister for Climate, Energy, Mobility and Infrastructure of the Walloon Region, outlined the challenges facing inland waterway transport and freight mobility, from the reduction of polluting emissions to resilience and port policy.

 After the traditional presentation of the DTIM prize to ENVISAN (Jan de Nul Group), a company specialising in the clean-up of polluted sites and the transport and recycling of mineral waste, the participants to the event were given a tour of the Hensies lock site on the Pommeroeul-Condé canal, which is currently undergoing restoration work financed by the European Union as part of the Seine-Scheldt project. The work is nearing completion and the site will be back in service this summer.